Hefty price tags abound for water and refuse issues

by Alan Todd

Whether hot, cold, leaking, metered, needing to be conserved or raising the rates on it, water was at the forefront of the Ouray City Council meeting Monday.
City Administrator Katie Sickles told the crowd of several dozen that the biggest issue the city faces pertaining to its water infrastructure system is the wastewater treatment plant, and there are three related components: gathering data, conservation in the Uncompahgre basin and possible utility charges to customers.
Sickles said that when the city applies for a new wastewater treatment plant permit at the end of the year, as its current permit expires June 30, 2019, it is likely the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will give the city a five-year compliance plan that will include building a new wastewater treatment plant.
"Planning for a wastewater treatment plant is expensive," she said, "and actually building it is even more expensive."
Sickles said installing water meters in the city for each user would assist with collecting data on various types of wastewater influent originating from residences, hotels, restaurants, etc.
"We are at a (treatment plant) capacity that already requires us to start planning to build," she said, "and we estimate that a wastewater plant could cost around $8 million, it could be $20 million."
Sickles said knowing the influent mixture of hydraulic, organic and bio-solids into the system will tell the city what kind of plant it should build.
"Water meters kind of help control the data we can get," she said. Even if water meters were installed immediately, it would take a few years to compile usable data.
Sickles has been attending meetings on water conservation and irrigation issues in the valley, and she believes being a good water neighbor is key going forward. Some water issues in the vicinity "are pretty dire," she said. "There are some areas that are probably not our responsibility, but it's also about being a good neighbor, and conservation and efficiency."
Sickles concluded saying that even if meters are installed, the city can still elect to charge on an Equivalent Residential Usage system as it does today instead of metered charges.

The case for meters
Pete Foster with Wright Water Engineers, who is contracted by the city to develop a wastewater treatment plan, said comparatively speaking Ouray has